First-year PhD student develops organic chemistry board game “REACT!”

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PhD student Kelly Wong helped create an innovative organic chemistry board game called REACT!, which helps students have fun while learning organic chemistry. 

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Wong and her peers saw how overwhelmed students were in their organic chemistry courses. “Organic chemistry is often viewed as a barrier that students must overcome in order to pursue careers in STEM,” Wong said. “As student-tutors, we found that our tutees were more engaged with the subject when they approached organic chemistry as a puzzle. This is why we created REACT!.” 

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The game is available for purchase on the REACT! website.

REACT! was developed by Wong and eight of her former UC Berkeley classmates, all who shared a common passion for teaching. The game tackles organic chemistry education in an innovative way. Each player is a scientist who needs to synthesize particular compounds. Players do this by discovering and utilizing fifteen fundamental reactions. The team’s goal is to show students from all over the world that organic chemistry need not be overwhelming; rather, that it can be a fun experience that fosters critical thinking, much like any other board game.

In 2017, the REACT! team raised over $15,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign and won two awards in UC Berkeley’s annual international entrepreneurship contest, Big Ideas.

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In 2017, Wong and her teammates placed in UC Berkeley’s Big Ideas startup competition. 

In April 2019, the game became available to purchase on the REACT! website. The project, which has been endorsed by UC Berkeley chemistry professors, was also featured by ABC 7 News, Chemical & Engineering News, and National Public Radio (NPR)’s podcast How I Built This

“The game is perfect for science nerds, students, and board gamers alike,” Wong said. “It’s fun to play, but our project is very much rooted in STEM education. I hope to forge collaborations between REACT! and outreach organizations at UCLA.” The team also plans to make the game available for sale on Amazon and to donate copies to low-income schools. 

Wong%2CKellyAbout Kelly Wong

Wong received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from UC Berkeley in 2018. As an undergraduate, she conducted research in the laboratory of Professor Sanjay Kumar in the Bioengineering Department where she studied intrinsically disordered proteins and developed hydrogels to analyze stem cell mechanobiology. Wong also worked as a Research Assistant with Professor Angelica Stacy in the UC Berkeley Chemistry Education Department where she explored effects of pedagogical practices on students’ perceptions of competence in chemistry. She joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as a chemical biology graduate student in Fall 2019. Her long-term aspiration is to become a professor and teach at the university level. In her spare time, Kelly enjoys baking desserts and playing jazz flute and trombone.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Photos courtesy of Kelly Wong.